The Philadelphia 76ers made a bit of a splash Thursday.
And while Rivers’ arrival will be welcomed in Philadelphia, it also means something for the rest of the Eastern Conference, and specifically the Boston Celtics.
First and foremost, the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference will feature some of the best coaches in the league.
Toronto Raptors’ Nick Nurse, New York Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau, first-year Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash, and with Rivers in Philadelphia, it will provide a tough task for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. Three of those mentioned have won Coach of the Year honors with Rivers (1999-2000), Thibodeau (2010-2011) and Nurse (2019-2020).
Rivers will inherit another talented roster in Philadelphia, which is nothing new for the 58-year-old. He was brought in to maximize the potential of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, which Brown wasn’t able to accomplish.
It’s a group — Tobias Harris, Al Horford, etc. — with talent, but plenty of downfalls, as well. He’ll likely be judged on how he’s able to help the 76ers young core.
Rivers, though, has a presence like not many others in the NBA. His stature as an NBA champion is different than Brown. Perhaps he’s able to relate more to players, perhaps players will listen to him more. All are fair to assume.
It comes with experience, and he has plenty of it, spending two-plus decades in the league — nine seasons with Boston before the last seven in Los Angeles. Rivers has a win percentage of 58%, however won 63% of his regular-season games with the Clippers since 2013. Brown had won 46% of games during that span, despite some of those coming from the “Trust the Process” days.
Rivers’ time in Los Angeles, though, wasn’t always perfect. The amount of wins each season declined from 57 his first year to 42 wins his fifth before climbing back up. He won 68% of games in 2020, helping the Clippers earn the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference before exiting in the conference semifinals, after building a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets.
That, too, has been an issue which has plagued Rivers-led teams. The talent doesn’t always mean championships, or even deep playoff runs. I mean, let’s not forget the ex-Celtics head coach had Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston. He moved on to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with the Los Angeles Clippers before that became Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and one of the league’s deepest teams in 2020. It’s made many question if Rivers has underachieved himself when it comes to the amount of titles won.
But would it be a huge surprise to see Rivers be the one to turn the 76ers around?
Celtics fans have seen it before as Boston went from the league’s basement in 2006-07 to NBA Champions one year later with a revamped roster. They’re likely not wishing to see it again.